CASH Cards and Cellphone Train Tickets [en]

[fr] En Suisse, on a la carte CASH (avec laquelle je paie parcomètres, billets de bus, et parkings souterrains), le numéro court 222/999 pour recevoir les horaires de train par SMS, et maintenant les billets de train par MMS (pour certains trajets, commandables en ligne ou par téléphone).

Near the end of the [latest Cranky Geeks episode](http://www.crankygeeks.com/2007/02/cranky_geeks_episode_53_bittor.html) there is some talk about paying things through cellphones, general lack of quarters (change) in the world, and concert ticket barcodes sent by MMS.

Here are some of the things we already have in sometimes-backward Switzerland.

First, the [CASH Card](http://www.cashcard.ch/en/ca_home.htm). It’s basically a chip which is added to nearly all the current debit cards banks provide their customers (people here use debit — [Maestro](http://www.maestrocard.com/) — much more than credit). It’s specifically designed for the payment of small amounts. You “put cash” on your card at the ATM through your debit account (30-300CHF). Then, off you go, your pockets full of virtual change.

I use CASH to pay my bus fares, feed the parking meter, underground parking, payphones, and even small purchases in kiosks or the baker’s. It’s cheaper for the vendor than either debit or credit, and doesn’t require an authentification code. It’s fast.

Second, [train tickets on your mobile](http://mct.sbb.ch/mct/en/mobile-ticket). For certain trips, you can order the ticket online or by phone (I called them to make sure I’d understood things right, as the web page is a bit confusing), and receive the barcode for this ticket by MMS. This does require going through a [somewhat cumbersome sign-up process](https://www.sbb.ch/mct/wi/shop/b2c/register.do), but hey, you only need to do it once (and I did *manage* to follow through to the end).

One very useful thing the SBB/CFF have been doing for sometime now is they allow you to [query the train timetables by SMS](http://mct.sbb.ch/mct/en/sms.html). Send “Lausanne Geneva” (without quotes) to 222 or 999 (depends on carrier) and they’ll give you the timetable of the three next trains for that trip. It gets smarter, too: “Lausanne Geneva 1500” gives you the first three trains after 3pm, and “Lausanne Geneva 1800.ar” the three last trains to arrive before 6pm. If you want platform information, try “Lausanne Geneva 1700 g”. You can also ask for trains departing in 2 hours, for example: “Lausanne Morges 2”.

I’m waiting to see a merge between these two last services: ask for timetables via SMS, and then order the MMS ticket directly for that trip (when those will be available for all trips). But actually, it’s not too bad as it is: you can order your MMS ticket by calling the free number 0800222211. They answer fast and are friendly (I called them three times with nasty questions as I was writing this post).

[When I was in Lisbon](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/09/26/scattered-lisbon-travel-notes/), I was totally impressed by the little black box that my host had under his windscreen, and which let him in and out of paid parkings, sending him a bill at the end of the month. That would be fun and practical to have.

What useful mobile/card services does your country have?

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